General Motors is hoping to use some out-of-this-world technology to help factory workers build cars in some of its plants. It’s out-of-this-world in the sense it was first developed for use on the International Space Station.
What we’re talking about here is a glove. But it’s no ordinary one. It’s a robotic force-multiplying glove called the RoboGlove.
It looks a lot like a large electrified work glove and it was originally designed to help astronauts carry out their work in space.
GM and NASA developed the battery-assisted glove during a nine-year partnership. (They also developed an experimental humanoid robot called Robonaut 2.)
The whole idea behind the RoboGlove is to reduce muscle fatigue and provide extra hand strength. It does this by using sensors, actuators and artificial tendons that mimic the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand, but with a battery-operated power boost.
Now GM is licensing the technology to a Swedish company to refine it so it can grip tools even better. Bioservo will integrate its grip-assist with SEM (soft extra muscle) technology into the glove to make it slimmer, more flexible and even more human-like.
“The successor to RoboGlove can reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions,” said Kurt Wiese, vice president of GM Global Manufacturing Engineering.
GM briefly tested an earlier version of the RoboGlove in a preproduction plant.
The automaker hopes to kick testing into high gear with the refined version sometime next year.